Why does everyone’s house look the same?

Guest post by Sarah Brown
By: Elisa SelfCC BY 2.0

Fuck your frame cluster. Fuck your decorative typewriter. Fuck your Eames rocker, your vintage map, your rotary phone and your card catalog. Fuck every inch of your sterile, homogeneous,”curated” apartment. Also, where did you get that throw pillow? It’s gorgeous.

The design clichรฉ-skewering Tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table has existed for a little over a month and already has thousands of followers. It targets everything from the very tired (please god no more “Keep Calm and Carry On” variations) to the close-to-home (did each one of us really think we were the only ones to covet an old card catalog?), and every post hits the nail on its vintage, forced-whimsy head.

By: Martin BurnsCC BY 2.0

My friends have terrariums and chalkboard paint and Arco floor lamps. I own a topographic map of Brooklyn and a framed drawing of animals in human clothing. I think I know more people who have their bookcases arranged in rainbow order than don’t. I’m in my 30s, I live in a major metropolitan area, and my personal taste isn’t quite as personal as I used to think.

Several months ago I signed up for Fab.com’s daily deal emails. After two weeks, I realized my passion for old globes was not unique — was I possibly passรฉ? Vintage maps are the new bird silhouettes. Bird silhouettes were the new trucker hats. Etsy and the internet have sped up the half-life of all our trends and fads to the point that they’re everywhere before we even realize we’re into them.

It’s inevitable that all the homes on Apartment Therapy start to look alike; every design trend that gets popular also gets dated. It’s like visiting a doctor’s office waiting room that was clearly decorated in ’80s mauve and powder blue, or ’90s burgundy and hunter green. The gold veined marble counter in your grandparents’ bathroom, or the dark wood paneling and decorative geese in your childhood best friend’s kitchen.

But what happens when the trend is for faux-personalized whimsical collections? Or when everyone wants their house to look like they’re world-traveling, eccentric millionaire from the ’40s? (Or, as one of my favorite Twitter users, Millie De Chirico recently said: “The Restoration Hardware catalog = going over to the home of Howard Hughes, if he were a giant robot & married to a gay solider from WWII.”)

I guess our generation’s design motif will be not-unfairly stereotyped by our passion for typography and leafless trees, just like our parents’ is often summed up with disco colors or shag carpet. But hey, if typography and leafless trees are your thing, what a wonderful time for you to be alive and living indoors!

Writer Danielle Henderson raises the point that the reasons our grandparents’ houses looked so cool and lived-in is because they were just that. She writes:

Don’t aim for anything — collect meaningful stuff.

This is my problem with this sort of decor — everyone is in a rush to cultivate a design personality instead of developing one. The cool shit in our grandparents’ house? It’s there because they bought it in 1945 and never threw it away. These apartments and Dwell spreads always look cold, mainly because there’s no personality, no life, no anima (what’s up Grosse Pointe). Buying an old sewing box to hold your decorative arrows because you saw it in a magazine and it looked cool isn’t as exciting to me as someone who went to a local furniture store and picked out some plain old wooden box they liked. Rooms like the one pictured above say nothing to me about the owner’s style or interests — it only tells me that they read Apartment Therapy and have an eBay account.

Our grandparents’ homes had soul. We don’t have soul — we have blueprints for style, and it feels empty.

“Curated” is a huge design buzzword currently. No one just picks something they like anymore; they curate it. Frankly, curating your home sounds a bit more stuffy than an actual labor of love, but the real nugget is that “curate” also invokes the slow, drawn-out, almost museum-like process of acquiring just the right item, not buying the entire set complete and insta-ready on Etsy or Fab. That might look nice in a photo, but where’s the fun in that?

But fuck YOU, we might say: we really like old maps and globes! We liked them long before they were de rigueur in every spread in Dwell. That’s fine then; we’ll just keep liking them. We’ll freeze everyone else out, wait for them to move on to the next thing (which I hope to god is serial killer chic, all ornamental bowls of toenail clippings and walls covered in unsettling newspaper clippings) and we’ll keep our old maps and globes long enough that our grandchildren associate them solely with our living rooms. But some of our neighbors’ grandkids will do the same. It’ll be A Thing.

…Which will be okay with us, because we genuinely loved them in the first place.

Comments on Why does everyone’s house look the same?

  1. It’s always been a goal of mine to buy, keep and hoarde things I LOVE. And I love a lot of things, but I know many of those are passing whims and the almighty rapture of “I wish I lived like the people in this photo!” But if it sticks with me, if it haunts me, if it appears in my dreams, then I know. It’s more than a whim, it’s what I really, genuinely, out-loud LOVE. And I don’t care what anyone says about my new LOVE, it’s mine and you can’t shit on that. -superhero pose-

  2. I love this article! I always say I’m like Phoebe from Friends: I want my furniture to have a story. I’d much rather collect my mash up of hand-me-downs, family heirlooms, Craigslist, and yard sale items into a comfortable home I love instead of a magazine photo set.

    • YES. I will freely admit that I have a burgeoning Apartment Therapy addiction and that I do enjoy the tours, but I’d rather have the furniture I have with stories rather than the expensive-ass-shit they have that is made to look lived in.

  3. I’m fortunate enough to have had a paternal grandmother who loved Bob Ross, a maternal grandmother who quilted, and a grandfather who could play any instrument he touched. This has left me with about 20 lovely paintings, bed covers, REAL wood furniture, and instrument which I love to have in my home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I also like to support local artists and crafters and collect things like knick knacks and magnets in my travels.

    My boyfriend would rather have a sterile, modern, leather-and-clean-lines living room, so I’m trying to let him put a few things in. I wouldn’t be upset if my home looked like the Restoration Hardware catalog. :3 I’m thinking of getting some of their air conditioner register covers, but that’ll be the only thing I can afford.

    We won’t mention my elephant bathroom!

  4. Its funny for me because as an architectural designer I’m drawn to the clean, sterile, curated photos in arch mags. But, at home, it isn’t what I’m drawn to at all. I’m a DIYer, I love colour, and I enjoy making things my own. My house looks nothing like a mag spread, but its mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes I coveted and now own an Eames Rocker, but to me its a piece of design history. I think its neat though that the internet has allowed us to have such a massive spread of ideas on design.

  5. When I read design blogs, for a small moment, I feel sad that I have so much random stuff I love (robots, rock collection, nametag collection, books in dewey decimal system order and thus no visible order at all, comic book art everywhere) that I’ll never have a beautiful empty space of order and will always live in colour splashes of chaos and randomness. These design blogs that make everyone look the same also make me feel that somehow I’m missing out on something, even though I know that I’m not. *shakes fist at the design blogs*

    I understand this about fashion and beauty magazines, so why do they hit me this way? It’s the decorating equivalent of dieting to look like magazine models.

    I still don’t fall for it though ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I love that you have your books organized by dewey decimal system. My mom was a librarian.

  6. Yesss, thank you. Every one of my friends that has had a baby recently – every! one! – has a bare-birch-tree-painted nursery.

    • Don’t forget the chandelier in the baby room. At least two of my fb friends have that going on.

      • I’m not even having kids, but for my nieces and nephews of the future I’m calling dibs on Jellyfish now. Jellyfish nurseries are MY thing! Back I say!

    • Oh man, I have wanted to paint a room yellow with a silhouette of several trees for years. I had no idea it has become cliche before I ever even got the chance to do it! Not fair!

      • I agree. I love birds and trees and so apparently I’m uncool now. Luckily I realized that trying to catch the cool train was a waste of my time because it was always gone before I knew it had arrived.

      • I have just had the same experience. When everyone was doing beige and brown, I started renovating my house with my favourite white, silver and black colour scheme. Sod them! Said I, I don’t LIKE brown and beige. Then, because we don’t have masses of money, it took us a few years, and black and white became super trendy and then faded out before I even finished! What do I do now? ๐Ÿ˜›

    • I came to terms with the fact that I was never going to do a “nursery tour” long ago. My boys share a room and I love, love, love the stuff in there– those are truly the things I have kept and treasured over the years, the things I kept over essential items when we moved across the country. But there is nothing graphically or aesthetically poppy about it. Not having that kind of room is a choice we consciously made.

      Plus, it gets harder to have impeccable rooms as kids grow. They break the matching piggy bank, they get nosebleeds on the matching blanket, etc.

  7. Hmm… I don’t know. I make no attempt to pretend that I’m totally unique and quirky etcetera, but I think your home can have soul, even if on the surface it’s the same as everyone elses. Yes, I have a huge vintage map http://annabelvita.com/vintage-french-schoolroom-map-above-the-bed and that probably looks like other peoples’ homes, but I bought it in a muddy field in the middle of France on my first real holiday with my now fiancรฉ and it’s France and we love France and we were in France and it’s my favourite colours and it’s totally got soul, for me. I’m using that as an example, I have lots of things I feel this way about – gosh, I have Ikea things that I’ve collected because I totally love them and will probably hoard them for a really long time.

    I think this Offbeat Bride post is relevant here: http://offbeatbride.com/2011/11/are-mason-jars-really-ruining-the-wedding-industry

    Just… do / buy / use what you love and don’t worry what other people think of it.

    • I don’t think maps and globes are necessarily all that imitative either, if they have special meaning. I have a hand-drawn globe of Novatierre, the dreamworld that I write science fiction about (I covered an outdated world globe with Grandma’s leftover parchment white house paint and drew on that) and a map of the coastline of Til Terrories on the same planet. You won’t find them in any catalogs.

  8. You know the saying ignorance is bliss? Totally applies here.

    This is the only home blog I read, and to be honest I’m not so into the design stuff. So I’m pretty much incapable of following trends because I’m not really aware of them to begin with.

    Instead I just have stuff I like that I put in places. Through an amazing stroke of forethought I started buying stuff for my house when I was about 11 and kept it up, so by the time I actually had a house (or a flat) I had a pretty big collection of “ornaments” that ranged from actually cool and interesting to junk with sentimental value to…well, junk. Combined with my lack of money it’s put me off buying much new stuff because I’ve been trying to cope with what I’ve already got instead.

      • I’ve always liked the idea of decorating a house and I think it made waiting to be old enough more tolerable if I felt like I was making a start.

        To be honest though I think it was also partially an excuse to buy things I knew I had no space for. It was ok that my awesome 3 foot wooden giraffe spent 5 years under my desk because it was really just ‘in storage’ ready and waiting for when I had the space to display it properly.

        I still wish I’d bought the driftwood sculpture of humpback whales too, but ยฃ2000 is a lot, especially for a teenager. ๐Ÿ™

        • Oh ma gawd, a friend of mine bought the giraffe when we were 15 hahaha! Now we’re 26 :p

    • I collected that young too. I think it was because I wasn’t happy with my current home-life so I instead looked hopefully to my future, where I could run a home the way I would like.

      • Yeah, I think I was about 13. I spent years daydreaming about the awesome apartment I would have when I was single. But then I decided to live at home through school, so spent most of my early 20s making sure all my belongings were already somewhat packed so I could move out immediately when the time was right.

        …and then I moved out of my parents’ to move in with my boyfriend, then married him. So much for the single girl dream. *facepalm* Oh well, the fully stocked kitchen was still useful ๐Ÿ™‚

    • My mom & I started my hope chest when I was in elementary school! By the time I moved out on my 22nd birthday I had more dishes, assorted kitchen thingies, decorative bottles, vases, candle holders, etc than I knew what to do with!
      I will definitely be doing the same with my daughter.

  9. Whenever I see someone’s bookcases organized by color, I get a little mad, and then sad. Because if they’re organized by color, it’s pretty much useless, and I feel that they probably don’t actually read those books (I know there are always exceptions). My parents have everything by author which works out pretty well, but I go more by genre/what will fit on the shelves/what’s my favorite.

    Also, Eames chairs. WHY!?!!?! They are so freaking uncomfortable (trust me, I have lectures in them for 2-5 hours a day).

    At my age though (22 and in college), everyone’s apartments look the same because we’ve all got the base level IKEA stuff! (Hello BILLY, and LACK, and JULES, and GALLANT…)

    • Aw, I don’t think color-organization and actually reading your books can’t go hand in hand. When I pull a book off the shelf, it’s usually after browsing the whole lot of them anyway, so alpha-by-author or organized by genre isn’t really a big priority for me.

      When I need to grab something quick for reference, I usually look it up online, so for me books are very much a visual / tactile browsing experience. Why not make them aesthetically appealing while I’m at it?

        • Some of our books ended up sorted by color on accident. Interestingly- 90% of my intended’s books are black.

          • This is funny to me because I love the color arranged bookshelves, but I can’t pull it off because so many of my books are brown. I would have to re-cover a lot of them in bright paper (which I thought about) but that takes time, and I’m lazy. Plus, I like my old, dusty, brown books.

        • same here! and for me itยดs great because normally my brain forgets authors names, but i do remember which color the book had …

    • I think it depends a lot on the type of books you read.

      I’d never organise mine by colour because most of what I read is sci-fi and fantasy and there seems to be a rule that each book in a series must be a different colour so it’d end up a jumbled mess.

      But my mum mainly reads biographies and books on paganism. They rarely come in series and there’s not really any clear logical order for them, so organising by colour makes as much sense as anything else and actually helps her find the one she wants to read because she’s likely to remember it’s got a red cover much easier than who wrote it or what it’s called.

      • You make a really good point. I forget that not everyone has tons of series spanning 10+ books where none of them are the same color…. (Class A nerd here!)

        Oh man do I love series…

    • If you want to debate the whole “shelving by color” issue, there’s a big long thread here.

    • as an artist, i’m a very visual person. & i read like mad, but i am far more likely to find something quickly organized by color than by title or author. don’t judge ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • my books are shelved by size…kind of. Bigger books on the outside, smaller books in the middle. I tend to remember books by how hefty they are (and color, but that confusing for me). I think i’m subconsciously telling myself that my shelves can hold more weight if the books are arranges this way.

      • Your shelves CAN hold more weight when arranged this way.

        A single heavy book placed on the centre of a shelf can cause sagging and (if it were very heavy or your shelves very flimsy) could break the shelf due to high torque load on the shelves. A heavy book placed on the edge of a shelf passes the load directly to the side supports, and basically eliminates the torque loading on the shelves. lighter books in the middle will do the same thing but the torque load will be less, meaning that the shelves are less likely to break. (end of engineering lecture).

    • My books are organized by genre. I have piles that are “actively or recently” read books that kind of gather around the house, then at work I keep my work-related books (mostly environment/nature books), then we have a section for fitness/martial arts/yoga philosophy and women’s health text book like stuff, which is right near the travel section, which kind of blends into more social philosophy types books (most of which I got while traveling), then a couple of shelves of DIY books. And then my fiction is kind of disorganized, though I tend to keep fantasy/sci fi together and more snooty literature/short stories together, and kids books belong on the bottom shelf in case a friend with kids pops by and wants to start taking books off.

      I’m in a hotel right now and miss my books! I’ve got to agree – rainbow shelves look stunning, but I need them organized by genre or I’d never find them!

      • The Dickens shelf, the Pratchett shelf, the cosmology/physics shelf, the Grimms fairy tale shelf, the Websters Dictionary shelf (it was my Granddads), the newly acquired books shelf (handiest to the door for grabbing something before jumping the train) the antique reference shelves, the ones that were gifts shelf, the beautiful Victorian bindings shelf, the word nerdy shelf, and the pre 1920 cookbooks. And thats just 1/3 of it. No colour matching, no curating the visually jarring, no size bigotry, just like minded books in harmony.

    • Yeah, I read the hell out of my books and they’re in no order at all. Organising them by colour would be a step up.

      Totally agree on the Eames chairs, though. My grandparents have some and there is nothing comfortable about them.

  10. i can’t help but think that it’s not the carefully “curated” design choices that make these look “the same” or otherwise alarming. for me, it is the cleanliness. i understand that that is a design thing, and part of prepping your house for a home tour (it’s even in offbeat home’s photo/submission info). but, really, one stray “to do” list on that table, and maybe a dog toy or some slippers on the floor would completely erase the creepy, cloned look, in my mind.

    maybe this has more to do with my housekeeping skills than the photos. i can guarantee that if we submitted home tour photos, i’d scrub the house clean, only to realize afterwards that my coffee cup is sitting right in the middle of all the photos, and the dogs have dragged their blanket to the middle of the newly mopped floor. =)

    • lady brett, me too! I am always amazed when other people’s bedside tables have nothing but one book and like, a flower in a vase. Mine is stack of books, chapstick, pens, medicine, kleenex, hairbands, lotion… plus weird detritus, like a single AA battery, or a screwdriver.

      • I have to admit when I see those super clean houses a part of me wants to yell “LIAR” but then I get kind of sad because I’m quite jealous of those clean people who don’t have to shove the mail aside to cut a tomato.

      • Wow, at this very moment I have every single one of those items on my bedside table (including the battery and screwdriver).

    • Same here. It always looks artifical to me when other people do it – like the house isn’t really lived in, it’s a studio set-up for a photoshoot instead. But then I know I’d do the exact same thing.

      I recently took a photo of my kitchen to go with an article I’m trying to write for this blog and it took me about a month because I kept thinking I should wait until it’s perfectly clean and maybe I should hide the recycling and I never found time to make it look “perfect”. In the end I just took it. What was especially silly is the article in question is partially about having all this crap in there, so it wouldn’t make sense to take it out.

      I would say though the one exception is when you’re trying to sell. Then you definately want to depersonalise and have as much empty space as possible. Or at least enough that potential buyers can clearly see the layout of the room and get an idea of the size.

      • Good point about the recycling and other “real life” stuff. I’ve been trying to figure out how we can hide our “non-matching garbage can, and our coffe-can-turned-compost-pail, but I use both of those things way to often to actually find it practical to put them away.

        • Ten years from now coffee cans turned into compost receptacles will become a fad in decorating. Actually, I kind of like the idea now. I almost feel sorry that I don’t drink coffee.

      • Everytime I see those super trendy, clean, “perfect” aesthetic homes, I think of two things. 1) How stressful is must be to live in a house that is so bare and perfect and 2) Ryan Gosling’s character’s home in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and how he all of this crap and he hates all of it.

  11. Also it’s sometimes very frustrating when you don’t like the style “everyone has” and you’re trying to get some inspiration on how to finally furnish your first real apartment…

    Actually, that might be why everyone’s house looks the same – there are no other ideas really floating around much.

  12. The hipster part of me is just really glad that the “antique store” look is coming back into style so that I can have the “space-age future according to 1950-1970” furniture for myself.

  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU. Finally, someone said it. “…cultivate a design personality instead of developing one.” That’s what’s been bugging me about it. And P.S. – Hate to break the news, but Pinterest is probably 80% responsible for this phenom.

    • Yes BUT: Pinterest has actually been making me really THINK about things that I’d like to have in my home (aka, make me happy) and what I just find pretty. I believe a lot of people mix these up. I definitely did for a long time.

  14. i’ve actually been on apartment therapy more than once & on here btw, but not because i fell into some sort of trend trap. i get what you’re saying, but just like the mason jar thing, this is a tad aggressive. if i hadn’t already sold everything i owned to move (http://offbeathome.com/2011/12/selling-everything-you-own), i’d not be tossing out my stuff simply b/c it became trendy years after. it kinda annoys me when people assume an initial design is copycat.

    did i have birds on my wall? yes, but i also made every stinking one of them myself based on the feild guides i used to pour over as a child. did i know that was going to become a thing in the next 2 years? no. should you say f you to my art? meh it’s a bit of an over reaction. lol

    i also siliconed dried branches to my wall to suspend air plants. did i know hanging air plants were going to be the new modernist thing? no. i came up with it completely independent.

    & the color arranged bookshelves? instead of a trend, think of them as a more efficient way of visual people to organize. i never remember who wrote the book or the exact title, but i can easily note the color of the spine. it makes it much easier to find.

    was my place chock full of mid century stuff? darn tootin! & guess why? b/c it’s on apartment therapy? nope. b/c i grew up addicted to hitchcock movies, my craig friendly budget, & (like i assume MOST people who have this stuff) i inherited it from my family who lived mid-century!

    falling for trends is not a very healthy thing to do, but i do take issue when people assume anyone wearing someone, listening to certain bands, decorating a certain way or whatever, MUST have been a follower. sometimes you are the first person you know doing something, & doing it b/c it brings you joy.

    oh & for the record i was also wearing 60s secretary dresses & winged liner before mad men.

    funny how 15 years ago, genuinely doing the same thing can get you called a weirdo trying to get attention for being different & then 15 years later, you’re a conformist follower who doesn’t know their own style.

    • Oh, this post is absolutely a tad aggressive — I think Sarah wrote it as a polemic, and one that’s succeeded in making you think about why you love what you love. (Which is ultimately what it’s all about.)

    • “funny how 15 years ago, genuinely doing the same thing can get you called a weirdo trying to get attention for being different & then 15 years later, you’re a conformist follower who doesn’t know their own style.”

      This, this, a thousand times this! Sometimes I swear you must be my long-lost twin, mariegael. Occasionally when I see something I enjoy has become mainstream I tend to set it aside for fear of being labeled a conformist – or a REAL hipster who actually DID like it before it was cool – rather than recognized as an individual. I remember putting a whole scarf collection in the back of my closet a decade-ish ago when scarves were becoming trendy again, before saying, “Eh, screw it,” and pulling them back out. I hate how trends make me second-guess myself sometimes.

      • Agreed, that is a perfect description. I’m like that with hairstyles; I refused to tame my curls all through the years when poker-straight hair was the thing, and braid them over my shoulder, and I got teased mercilessly for it at school. Now leaving hair natural, and over-shoulder braids, are fasionable and suddenly *I’m* the dickhead *again*, but for a different reason. I don’t give a shit about trends, and frankly people who judge me next to them, either for not conforming or what they think is me conforming too much, can fuck right off.

  15. Oh god, looking at that Tumblr, all I can say is this:

    FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, IF YOU PUT UP A FRAME CLUSTER, USE A LEVEL!

    Thank you.

  16. As much as I occasionally get annoyed by the abundance of “make a chic X out of a vintage Y” projects out there, I’m more interested in watching trends unfold and realizing that there’s nothing new under the sun. The Renaissance upper classes emulated the styles of the Romans and Greeks, much like our vintage-obsessed generation. Today’s purpose-driven gardens (pollinators, heirloom vegetables, native plants) remind me of the “victory gardens” of WWII. And I have a feeling hipsters and Romantic-era philosophers would get along famously. There’s nothing wrong with trends, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to buck them. But it’s fascinating to look at what “everyone’s house looks like” and wonder which trends will become the defining styles of the era. When I’m bouncing my grandchildren on my knee, I wonder which relic of my twenties will make them roll their eyes and say, “Oh Grandma, that is SOOO turn-of-the-century!”

  17. Hah, thanks for linking to that Tumblr! When I go off on a rant about how there’s a whole world of really interesting modern furniture out there but everybody keeps buying the same five pieces over and over, the Noguchi coffee table is one of my prime examples–along with Egg Chairs, Bertoia diamonds, the Eames lounge, the Eames rocker, Barcelona chairs, and Panton chairs.

    It’s not just that these designs are too common–I mean, that’s boring but people have the right to be boring in their own homes. What troubles me more as a designer is that when people see these pieces everywhere it gives the illusion that they’re ideal for everyone. Rather than evaluate the piece as a product that may or may not work for them, buyers just trust that if X Museum has the Barcelona Chair all over their lobby it must be comfortable to sit in, and if the Egg Chair is in every home featured in Dwell, it must be the ideal stuffed chair. I wonder how many of these pieces live in homes as book stands, the dog’s favorite chair, the chair that stands there looking nice while no one sits in it. Probably a lot.

    There are so many great designers making new things–and for that matter, so many older designs that never became as popular as these but can still be found–that we could basically stop buying modern design “safety furniture” today and never be starved for options. Even just a week-long moratorium to give other furniture a chance would be nice!

  18. The bookshelf arranged by colour reminded me of a friend’s housemate’s bookshelf I recently perused. He had many iconic texts (actually only iconic texts) and he’d arranged them in formations mixed with suitable vintagey ornaments. Each shelf was themed, feminist lit, beat writers, literary crime, travel, philosophical etc. None of the books looked genuinely read. It made me very sad. It was just like a bookshelf in a museum.

    • What makes me sad is when I see a shelf like that in someones hall or living room and then discover a shelf of throughly worn out Star Wars novels or trashy romance novels or whatever hidden in their bedroom. It reminds me of a story I read somewhere about a journalist who knew it wasn’t going to work out with her boyfriend when he told her that if she moved in with him the books she’d kept from her English degree could go in the living room but the fantasy novels would have to go in the spare bedroom.

      Whether they read the ‘display’ books or not it makes it seem like they’re trying to create a illusionary version of themselves as a high brow intellectual instead of just being themselves.

      • in defense of “display books” (kind of):
        it seems that no amount of re-reading will make the cover fall off of my copy of “catcher in the rye”, despite its likely being older than me, while the cover of “xenocide” came off before i was half-way through. this is just an example of something i have found overwhelmingly true: lit books are more attractive (to me) and better-made than sci-fi/fantasy (or romance, i suspect) novels. on strictly visual appeal, i’m not as inclined to display my mass-market paperbacks.

        that said, i also shelve by genre, so they’re naturally in different places, and i don’t keep any books that don’t have significant meaning to me, so i get the “show-offy” wierdness you’re talking about.

        • I actually collect mass market paperbacks. I browse used bookstores and library sales and pick up paperbacks of books that were most likely bought for a high school or college class. Lots of times they’ve got parts underlined or little notes and doodles written in the margins. I especially love the ones that are a couple of decades old. I love the yellowed pages and the cheesy fonts and how even though the books themselves are classics, the covers are updated every couple of years to appeal to the buyer. They become little capsules of an era.

      • Meh, we have a bookshelf of “display” books that does double-duty in our house: it’s decor for our “study”, and it’s the shelf we can send people who may want to borrow a book. We don’t really want people reading our ratty copies, because they’re fall apart and they have sentimental value, so those stay upstairs. Trade paperbacks that aren’t actually very good but seemed worth it at the time are also upstairs, because we want to suggest GOOD books to our friends, if they’re looking for something to read to pass the time.

        Anyway, I personally don’t think using books as decor is at all bad, ESPECIALLY if you know there is another bookshelf in the house were the more well-loved books reside. They’re book people, why not decorate that way?

  19. well, this article at the very least gives me some perspective. I’ve always felt a bit bad about not being into decorating. my home is a mish mash of things people gave me. I own my home, even own a rental property but still use the couch my husbands parents gave him when he moves out. Its not poverty, just lack of looking at the details I think. It could use to be tidier though… my home is just unique. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. If my house is already serial killer chic (sans the toenail clippings but with lots of sharp, vintage farm tools) does that mean I’m ahead of the design curve?

  21. I try to get what I like and not worry about anyone else, but it’s so HARD to be unique. I think it’s just as silly NOT to get things because they are trendy than it is to get things because they are trendy. There are many classic items that come and go in trends, like Suzani and ikat and toile. (I’m a fabric girl, can you tell?!) but will go on being classics long after the trend is over. I liken it to naming my daughter Emma 20 years ago. It was ranked something like 200 and then a few years ago it became the # 1 name. I was upset, but I realize that people named their babies Emma 200 years ago and they’ll probably use the name 200 years from now.

  22. HAHA this post is awesome. My world map just came in the mail and I can’t wait to add the photos from our trips and pin where we’ve been and where we’re going.

    Thinking more on whether it’s a bandwagon thing though, I wonder if people aren’t just more similar than they’d like to admit. Many like to travel, so the map/globe thing is sort of a no-brainer. Many like colors, clean spaces, etc. Now that Pinterest and other social platforms are available, perhaps it’s just becoming more readily obvious that we’re not so different after all.

    • Actually, I personally think Pinterest and Apartment Therapy have allowed many people to realize what they like about certain designs/setups, and therefore more people realize what they CAN do and and find more of what they LIKE than thninking they’re stuck with something, so all of a sudden EVERYONE is doing something, because it IS pretty. Basically, more people can see the pretty/awesome ideas now, so more people are going to use them. I think of it as sharing the joy!

  23. Gah, this is my Love/Hate with Apartment Therapy & similar sites… I feel like everyone plays the same version of (pick one) hipster-“ooh so avant-garde grey”/just enough color/just enough quirky/just enough minimalist/just enough natural elements to still be safe and generically appealing in about 99% of the home tours, and hardly anybody pushes the envelope. Thank you for posting this today, I’d been considering painting my intensely plum kitchen white (as I do, after I start to feel like the uber-oddball and see too many white-walled homes)… you’ve reminded me that I’ll end up hating it and repainting it. ‘Cause it’s not being true to my decor personality, and that’s what usually happens when I try to follow the masses. Amen, Offbeat Home.

    • i’ll have to defend apartment therapy just like i would defend offbeat for a sec here as they actually have many things in common.

      1. they both started as a book. the book, btw, has absolutely NO PICTURES (other than the cover) & is filled with self examination. it’s all about making your home a sanctuary for YOU even if it’s not what you’ve been taught to have.

      2. the site has changed quite a bit since it started but it was a place where non owners could go to discuss solving problems & share inspiration. before apartment therapy, all design stuff was aimed at owners. weirdly shaped room? knock down the wall!! ugly tile? NEW TILE!!! weeee but apartment therapy let people share ways to not break the lease.

      3. they book have quite fun flickr pools & you will see some really unique stuff on there.

      • I think I would have appreciated AT in its original form better, then. Even being a homeowner now (and an apartment dweller years ago). I’ve been reading it since at least 2008 and I haven’t noticed much of a change from what I typed above.

        That said, I often *do* enjoy their inspiration posts and their furniture/product posts. I get frustrated by their home tours, and their reader’s questions posts (especially the ones that ask for a paint color – you’ll get 50 replies telling the person to paint it a “soft shade of grey” and maybe 2 or 3 actually going outside the grey box). If they have a neat Flickr pool, it would be nice if they shared more pics from it. That’s why it’s love/hate. And I know part of it is just the readership – hence why a white room with 4 orange accent pieces was winning the Room for Color contest this year up till the last day or two (don’t get me started on that debacle). And hence why most of the house tours are duplicates of each other. It’s not that I have anything against that style, but seeing it over and over and over… it gets boring. I feel like you could intersperse photos from 20 different house tours and no one would be able to tell they were from different houses. Again, that’s not to say they don’t post interesting (to me) house tours once in a while, but it’s far and few between and I’m sure I end up missing some because after 5 days straight of blah, I won’t read their site for a few days because I’m on blah-overload.

        If I come across bitter, I apologize. But I’ve said it before on other forums and I’ll say it again – SaucyDwellings, at its pinnacle, was to me the best forum for sharing interesting home design there was in the last 10 years. Unfortunately Livejournal seems to have dwindled with active members/posters but I love that community.

        (also, you may want to take my comment with a grain of salt as I’m someone who considers “PAD” a design bible.)

        • Damn design trends. I’m so into grey and orange right now, and I just bought my first house. But I’m afraid that it’ll look as dated in two years as the beige/white/chocolate scheme that I’m desperate to paint over.

        • I didn’t take it as you knocking AT or Dwell, but I knocked AT’s house tours. And it’s not even that I mind seeing a trendy abode featured every so often in their tours, because lord knows I like trendy things (and not trendy things) but I just wish there were more diversity in the postings. (and some disclosure here – my house has been featured in some of their posts, in the past, and the posts were generally well-received. but they were also a bit outside the box of what you see on there on a daily basis.)

          I’d do it myself, to be honest, but I don’t have the time and energy and interest and skills to dedicate to full-time blogging. I tried it, it’s not for me. (Plus, I get sick of looking at my house all the time.)

          • very true about the house tours. my fav ones have been the stranger ones for sure & most i don’t even look at. my fav one of all time on there was this bank someone bought for crazy cheap & converted into a superhero worthy mansion. 2nd fav was a factory warehouse owned by an artist who was confined to a wheelchair. & he had rigged up all of these industrial parts to make it really functional for him.

  24. This article is funny. I love it. And I love to see the snark back on OBH. True, it may make those of us guilty of said fads (whether leading or following) feel a bit self concious, but that is what’s great about articles like this, and of OBE in general. It’s ok to be quirky and to do what you want. Or not. Or even “too quirky”. The main thing is to be ourselves, and appreciate and enjoy who we are and what we have each day. Even if we are sometimes tempted to throw out our owl collection now that owls are ‘trending’.

  25. A friend shared Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table when it first started and I still giggling. As far as trends go, if they help you find things you truly love a little easier and makes your home your happy place, who gives a shit what other people think.

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